Monday, December 5, 2016

Premier Andrews forces us to think about Christ and Culture

So the aggressively progressive Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews is still trying to get his Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Bill 2016 through the Legislative House (tomorrow?) and into law. Basically the law forces religious organisations to prove that a religious confession of faith is an "inherent requirement" to be employed by a Christian organisation. (The law's logic is bizarre, you have to employ someone with the opposite values of your organisations in the name of open-minded tolerance!?) It's unclear if Andrews is simply securing his political left-flank to prevent more progressive parties gaining a foothold or if he is a genuine ideologue.

But the introduction of this law highlights an important aspect of how modern Australian evangelicalism views the relationship between Christ and culture. Many (some?) evangelical Australian leaders would say "the gospel does not change everything". This is based on the idea that the "ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4) is primary, and that the sermon is the central focus of the service. Therefore making this activity and role primary, and everything else secondary. Unintentionally this coincides with our culture's focus on specialisation and professionalisation, the pastor becomes the gospel specialist. So apart from the chaplain who else would need to be a Christian at a Christian school?

Now, apart from belonging to Jesus, what else really matters, in the end? The gospel is central to life and faith. Also specialisation can be useful. Now i've blogged before about the seven big ways the gospel changes culture (ethics, purpose, patterns, pictures, boundaries, occasional details and the meta-narrative). Note that I'm not arguing for an extreme Christian presuppositionalism, crudely: 'that only the things a Christian sees exist'. Aerodynamics, a creation trope, is useful for both Muslim and Christian pilots. But the big story you belong to ultimately and intimately changes everything. Otherwise ironically in an effort to elevate gospel preaching we narrow and diminish it, application is truncated, the scope of Biblical history becomes lopsided and we are unequipped to handle the madness of Daniel Andrews.

[Daniel Andrews in Tiananmen Square, China. - 2015 ABC News]

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The anti-abortion shape of public philosophy in France

You have to hand it to the French for attempting to be consistent. The Conseil d'√Čtat, a legal body of the French government more famously known for a short period of forcing Muslim woman to wear bikinis at the beach, has recently banned this pro-life ad featuring down-Syndrome kids. Reportedly the Conseil d'√Čtat banned the video because they were "likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices.” Notably the ABC here in Australia reported that parents feel pressured into aborting their unborn down-Syndrome babies.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump: the pagan politician

Paganism is our default religious setting. Its primary values are hearth (television, fireplace or table), family (people grouped by sexual relationship, partners or products of) and security (yard, car or neighbourhood). Morality of course is common to everyone, even for the fastidiously neutral Anarchist, but it varies. Varies between the marketplace, hearth and castle. Tools and spirits are leveraged not for morality but for preserving the hearth, family and security. Effective nationalism allows paganism to flourish by reducing the monolithic power of the centre and external existential threats.

This is what Trump represents. His relentless focus is not on an ideal and ideological 'American Exceptionalism', but on a place protected by tariffs and safe from existential threats. However as I've observed before, paganism is mediated by power and it lacks imperial stability. Voters gave Trump's personal morality a pass because as everyone tacitly acknowledges, morality varies, paganism is diverse. Clinton had an ideological vision for America and the world, a vision that was obscured by her nearly successful campaign-play to paint Trump as dangerous and risky.  She was a champion for democratic-liberalism, which lately has become coupled with sexual self-determination, grievance and control. That agenda was to be imposed on everyone either by power or by persuasion. So Trump said and did what was necessary to win, allowing anti-semites on the one hand and pro-lifers on the other hand, to read into him whatever they liked (Note his cunning delayed disavowal of David Duke and then his proud display of a 'LGTB for Trump' flag at one of his rallies.).

But if we get caught up in Trump's contradictory waffle we're in danger of missing Trump's central message, which is: "I'm going to let you all flourish, just as I myself have". His personal hearth, family and security are on an opulent scale, but beyond that he simply doesn't care, simply does not have an ideological agenda, he'll increase some taxes and decrease others, he'll offend some people and be extraordinarily conciliatory towards other people, and there will be no discernible rhythm or reason to it all, although many will read there own agendas or fears into his behaviour.

You can see that all represented above in Mark Wallheiser's iconic campaign photograph. Part of Trump's rise to power was to favour law-and-order over and above the treatment of black people and to be harsh on Latino immigration, so the crowd is overwhelming white. Trump lacks an ideology, so he is hardly inclined to impose one on other people and is also happy to appoint morally conservative judges (if it suits him), which is a relief for Christians and explains the cardboard sign about Jesus. Lastly, people are happy to meet him. Smart politicians like people and he is unashamedly a politician, happy to seek and wield power, but he doesn't pretend to be an ideologue and isn't driven by ideology (for better or for worse).